• Fullerene

    Fullerenes can be synthesized in the central regions of planetary nebulae — in a lack of hydrogen. However, they can be found in the circumstellar regions where hydrogen is present.

  • Fullerene 70

    Fullerene C70 differs from the fullerene C60 by the insertion of 10 carbon atoms. This makes a molecule slightly flattened.

  • Phenantrene

    Phenanthrene, along with naphthalene and pyrene is present in the tails of comets of the solar system. This compound may be also found on the surface of some exoplanets and in circumstellar space.

  • Pyrene

    Pyrene as naphthalene and phenanthrene, refers to polycyclic aromatic compounds. It is believed that they may account for up to 20% of all carbon in the universe.

  • Hydrogen sulfide

    Hydrogen sulfide is widely distributed in space. It is an important precursor for the synthesis of sulfur-containing amino acids and other organic molecules that has been demonstrated by Stanley Miller in 1958.

  • Ammonia

    Ammonia molecules are often found in circumstellar envelopes of gas and dust, as well as in the atmospheres of gas giants and many other planets.

  • Butane

    Butane is found in the large hydrocarbon seas on Titan's surface, Saturn's moon.

  • Carbon monooxide

    This substance is found in interstellar and circumstellar space. It is the second most common compound in space after molecular hydrogen.

  • Cyanamide

    This compound is found in interstellar space, and may be present in the nuclei and the tails of comets. In abiotic conditions urea and even nitrogenous bases can be synthesized from cyanamide

  • Decanol

    Decanol, as well as some other alcohols with a shorter hydrocarbon chain may be formed as a result of the collision of comets and meteorites with planets. Formation of alcohols is important for the subsequent synthesis of fatty acids.

  • Ethane

    Hydrocarbon seas on the surface of planets such as Titan, may consist of three-quarters of ethane.

  • Ethylene glycol

    Ethylene glycol, along with other small oxygen-containing compounds found in interstellar gas clouds. This compound can be reduced to glycolaldehyde — the simplest carbohydrate.

  • Formamide

    Found in interstellar space, where it can interact with methylene radical to form acetamide.

  • Glycine

    This amino acid has been found in the tail of the comet 81P/Wild, which in 2006 was studied by the NASA space probe.

  • Niacin

    Meteorites, as well as comets may contain a number of organic molecules. Recently, it was found that vitamin B3 — niacin, may be among them.

  • Carbon dioxide

    Carbon dioxide is widely distributed in space. It is found in the interstellar gas and dust and in the atmosphere and on the surface of planets.

  • Glycolaldehyde

    This compound is a simple carbohydrate — an important precursor for the synthesis of more complex sugars, amino acids and nitrogenous bases. Recently glycolaldehyde was detected in circumstellar gas shells.

  • Naphtalene

    Naphthalene is found in many comets tails, along with other polycyclic aromatic compounds.

  • Methane

    Methane is a common ingredient of the comet nuclei. It is present in circumstellar and interstellar space and on different planets where it can be in solid, liquid, and gaseous forms.

  • Carbamide

    Urea is one of the compounds that is important for abiotic synthesis of biological monomers. There are evidence that it is present in interstellar space.

  • Propane

    Propane is present in the hydrocarbon seas on Titan and can be found in the open space. Oxygen and sulfur derivatives of propane are important for synthesis of amino acids and other biomolecules.

  • Water

    ВWater — the central subject of the search on the surfaces of different planets, because the presence of liquid water indicates to the possibility of life in earthly form. Currently couple of dozens of platents with liquid water are found outside the Solar system. Recently, liquid water was detected on Enceladus — Saturn's moon.

Space has far fewer chemical compounds than our habitable planet. However, that small number of compounds is growing as astronomers and astrobiologists continue to discover more and more chemicals in different space objects.
Many space compounds, both organic and inorganic, hold value as possible precursors in abiotic synthesis of biological molecules. Study of space chemistry is important for understanding how living systems might have formed and where in the Universe life can be found. In this gallery we have collected images of some important molecules that are found in circumstellar and interstellar regions, gas and dust clusters, comets, meteorites, and other planets.

Date: Apr 24, 2014


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  2. Lazcano A., Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2010 Nov;2(11):a002089.
  3. Powner MW, Sutherland JD., Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2011 Oct 27;366(1580):2870-7.
  4. Parker ET at al., Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Apr 5;108(14):5526-31.
  5. Ziurys LM., Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Aug 15;103(33):12274-9.


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A.V. Trapeznikov, Corporate director, Board member of RUSNANO
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